|Place of origin United States|
Produced 1958, 1993
No. built 3 (1958), ~2 (1993)
|Type cut-down lever-action rifle|
Designer Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard
The Mare's Leg (aka Mare's Laig; both sometimes spelled without the apostrophe) was the name given to a customized shortened rifle used by Steve McQueen's character on the television series Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958–1961). McQueen's character was named Josh Randall, and the gun has also been referred to as a Winchester Randall, or a Randall Special. "Mare's leg" is now a generic term for a Winchester Model 1892 (or modern derivative) with a shortened barrel and stock.
The term "mare's leg" was introduced in 1957 in the TV series Trackdown, where Steve McQueen first appeared as a bounty hunter. Steve McQueen and his "mare's leg" went on to star in the CBS TV series Wanted Dead or Alive.
Designed by Kenny "Von Dutch" Howard, an experienced artist and gunsmith, the original Mare's Leg was made by cutting down a .44-40 caliber Winchester Model 1892 rifle to a size that could be worn in a large leg holster and used with one hand. The barrel was cut to a length of nine inches, and much of the butt-stock was removed. McQueen was involved in the final design, suggesting the duck-bill hammer and enlarged lever loop, and initiating a redesign of the custom holster. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was not consulted before the program aired and producers had to pay taxes totalling $1100.
During filming three guns were made, each with an enlarged loop on the cocking lever. After filming started, the size of the levers was made smaller on all 3 guns. The second and third guns bore octagonal barrels instead of a round one. In a continuity oversight, a gun sometimes changed partway through a given scene. While the guns were chambered for the .44-40 round, McQueen wore more impressive looking .45-70 rounds in the loops of his gun belt. In season one a doctor, after removing a bullet fired from the Mare's Leg from the back of a criminal, identified the removed bullet as a 30-30 round.
As of the 1980s, one of the original guns was on display at the Fort Spaghetti Restaurant and Museum (999 Ball Road, Anaheim, California). Another is in the Autry National Center of the American West. There have been a number of toys based on the Mare's Leg, from small cap guns to larger detailed toys complete with a holster.
The gun makes an appearance as the favorite weapon of key characters in a film sequel to the McQueen series, and later series, use the weapon as a homage. The 1987 film Wanted: Dead or Alive starred Rutger Hauer as Nick Randall, the grandson of Josh Randall. Nick keeps his grandfather's Mare's Leg in a display case in his office.
Similar shortened rifles have appeared in:
A number of companies have marketed functional reproductions of the Mare's Leg, making them the same way as the original, by cutting down Winchester rifles. These reproductions also have the same legal restrictions as the original: a rifle may not have a barrel length less than 16 inches (41 cm) without obtaining a tax stamp from the ATF, in accordance with the National Firearms Act.
Other companies have marketed reproductions originally made and sold as handguns. Because of the legal restrictions, non-functional prop-quality replicas have been produced by some of the same companies that make functional copies.
Since before 2000, Eagle Squadron Productions has produced and sold an authentic 1892 Winchester Mare's Leg carbine. It uses a Winchester 1892 carbine in the correct caliber of .44-40, and is based on one of the original prop guns. They also produce replica gun belt and a non-firing replica carbine.
In 2005, J.B. Custom began marketing a "1892 Mares Leg Lever Action Pistol". This pistol is a fully functional copy of Randall's weapon, available in a number of calibers. Since they are newly manufactured as pistols and sold subject to handgun regulations, rather than cut down rifles, they avoid legal difficulties. Like the original weapon, the J.B. Custom version has a 12-inch (30 cm) barrel, and an overall length of 24 inches (61 cm).
The pistol was available in .45 Colt, .44-40 Winchester, and .38-40 Winchester. Early promotional material specified a limited production run of 50 units based on the number of available 1892 actions that could be used legally. Later versions of the weapons use a slightly different action that while not exactly like the 1892 model, cycles more reliably, and is commercially available. This version is available in .44 Magnum, and .357 Magnum.
In 2008, Legacy Sports International introduced their version of the Mare's Leg, made by Chiappa in Italy, imported for Legacy, and sold under the brand name "Puma". This Puma 92 pistol is named the Bounty Hunter. It is available in several calibers including; .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, and .44-40. With a 12-inch (30 cm) barrel, no shoulder stock, and a receiver that has never been built into a rifle, it is considered a pistol by the ATF.
In 2010 Rossi Firearms began offering a Mare's Leg under the name "Ranch Hand". The Rossi version is chambered in .45 Colt, .44 Magnum/.44 Special, and .357 Magnum/.38 Special. The Rossi Ranch Hand is manufactured by Taurus in Brazil.
Henry Repeating Arms manufactures two versions of the Mare's Leg. The rimfire model has a blued receiver and barrel and chambers .22 Long Rifle, .22 Long, and .22 Short. The centerfire model has a brass receiver and blued barrel and is available in .357 Mag, .44 Mag, and .45 Colt.
In the United States under the National Firearms Act, to make a short barreled rifle from a firearm originally made and sold as a rifle requires payment of $200.00 for a tax stamp, approval from the BATFE and federal registration. However, a "lever action pistol" made and sold subject to BATFE regulations is treated as a pistol by federal law. While most states will allow the purchase of Mare's Leg lever action pistols, California and New York have banned this gun from being sold in their individual states. They are also not approved for sale in Massachusetts.